—Oscar Wilde, to a witty remark by James McNeill Whistler
—James McNeill Whistler, riposte to the above
You've probably encountered these authors. Somehow, they have managed to be inherently quotable. They are the ones whose sayings adorn the inside pages of books, who appear on t-shirts, whose appearance is almost guaranteed on any Quote Overdosed page or series that makes use of Epigraphs. They will have the largest section on Beam Me Up, Scotty!; in fact, these will be their best known quotes, since a lie can travel halfway round the world while the truth is putting on its shoes (Mark Twain). Their words tug on the imagination, perhaps more than they do on fact, but hey, imagination is more important than knowledge (Albert Einstein). They also tend to be people to look up to for their intellect; people want to seem witty not just for saying something witty, but also for saying something said by someone witty, even though a witty saying proves nothing (Voltaire). Since most people depend on Small Reference Pools, once someone gets into the popular consciouness, they will circle around it for infinity (Troper).
Efforts to identify the most quoted authors exist, but of course the pool of well-known quotes is in constant flux. Newcomers are sometimes snubbed by those who attribute material to the same stock Authors of Quote when unsure who to credit.
- The Bible, especially Jesus. So much so that quoting it is a trope in itself.
- Ask yourself what would an intellectual do? What would Plato do?
- Marcus Tullius Cicero, granddaddy of oration, "Let the punishment match the crime" and expressed admiration for the literature of...
- Julius Caesar: "The die is cast", "I came, I saw, I conquered".
- Augustine Of Hippo
- Thomas Aquinas
- William Shakespeare. In fact, it is now considered polite to not say "As the Bard said..." because it seems like you're trying to sound impressive for knowing some Shakespeare which is in fact very unimpressive.
- There is in fact a famous comedy sketch entitled "For You Are Quoting Shakespeare". It focuses not on the iconic lines of his works, such as "to be or not to be", but the lines which are so absolutely popular that they have entered everyday vocabulary. There's a surprisingly large number.
- Molière : 17th-century French playwright, whose plays have a lot of quotes which entered the French language.
- Voltaire whose writings inspired countless writers and were used in two revolutions. Look him up, he is a source of endless fun quotables.
- Jean-Jacques Rousseau
- There seems to be a law that any famous quote by an obscure person has a 50% chance of being assigned to Napoleon.
- Benjamin Franklin. From 1776:
John Adams: "I've got better things to do than listen to you quote yourself!"
- Thomas Jefferson gave the world arguably the five most important words of the past few hundred years: "All men are created equal."
- Oscar Wilde: Most people in the world have probably read more of his quotations than of his books.
When, with the literate, I am
Compelled to try an epigram,
I never seek to take the credit;We just assume that Oscar said it.
- Friedrich Nietzsche. His quotes have even become a Kanye West song.
- Abraham Lincoln
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
- Lewis Carroll. Alice in Wonderland is the third most quoted book in the world, apparently.
- Karl Marx
- Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
- Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)
- Alfred, Lord Tennyson is the second-most quoted author in the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations. His best-known is probably "Tis better to have loved and lost..."
- Alexander Pushkin
- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, perhaps the most quotable German-speaker of recent times.
- Friedrich Schiller
- Kurt Tucholsky
- Mae West
- Groucho Marx.
- G. K. Chesterton: "Anything worth doing is worth doing badly." "A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it." "Art, like morality, consists of drawing the line somewhere." "I believe in getting into hot water; it keeps you clean."
- W.C. Fields
- Albert Einstein
- Vladimir Lenin
- George Orwell
- Sigmund Freud (but only when he was right).
- Franklin D. Roosevelt certainly had a few.
- There also seems to be a law that any famous quote by an obscure person has a 50% chance of being assigned to Winston Churchill.
- Charles de Gaulle
- António de Oliveira Salazar
- Yogi Berra (who never said half the things he said).
- Terry Pratchett
- Noam Chomsky
- Douglas Adams
- Bob Dylan: Probably the most quoted singer in the world.
- Robert A. Heinlein, mostly because The Notebooks of Lazarus Long, a collection of quotes from the character (who appeared in several books), was published independently of the novels. He still ranks up there with Pratchett and Adams in terms of quotable sci-fi authors.
- When there is a quote about Latin American child's poetry and music, it probably involves Maria Elena Walsh.